Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Suddenly I turned around and she was standing there--with silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair. Janis Joplin was a blues singer in the tradition of Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday but transplanted to another time. Like Smith and Holiday, she didn't have a "perfect voice" in the traditional sense. Her voice was rough and weathered but she used it as an expressive instrument that carried her soul. She was steel-edged but somehow soft inside, as Nat Hentoff once described Billie Holiday. Summertime was a natural for her. Of course the song had been done many times before, from stage productions of Porgy and Bess to jazz clubs, but it was blues at heart, and Janis sang the hell out of it. She sang it for our time. This clip was recorded in Stockholm in 1969, a year of turbulent change around the world, the year that Nixon was elected by a landslide, the year of Woodstock and the first moon landing, the year of the Manson killings and the Stonewall riots and the first massive demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Janis captured the heart and soul of the time, just as much as Hendrix playing The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock with snarling feedback and bombs bursting in air that same summer.


picasso said...

Who the hell are SME?

Bob Rini said...

Uh, you got me. Who?